How is it that we can recognize photos from our high school yearbook decades later, but cannot remember what we ate for breakfast yesterday? And why are we inclined to buy more cans of soup if the sign says "LIMIT 12 PER CUSTOMER" rather than "LIMIT 4 PER CUSTOMER?" In Kluge, Gary Marcus argues convincingly that our minds are not as elegantly designed as we may believe. The imperfections result from a haphazard evolutionary process that often proceeds by piling new systems on top of old ones--and those systems don't always work well together. The end product is a "kluge," a clumsy, cobbled-together contraption. Taking us on a tour of the essential areas of human experience--memory, belief, decision making, language, and happiness--Marcus unveils a fundamentally new way of looking at the evolution of the human mind and simultaneously sheds light on some of the most mysterious aspects of human nature.
|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Gary Marcus is a professor of psychology at New York University and director of the NYU Infant Language Learning Center. Marcus received his Ph.D. at age twenty-three from MIT, where he was mentored by Steven Pinker. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, and other major publications. He lives in New York.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Paradigms in the Cognitive Sciences (especially the less physical ones, like psychology) tend to behave more like fads and trends than systematic research programs. They shape interpretations of data and drive experimental design for a while; five to ten years later something else comes along and most everyone besides the acolytes moves on (c.f. Connectionism). The theoretical interpretations they offer tend to fit some data very well, for a time, while other aspects of the explananda lie in Procrustian beds."Kluge" provides a good example of how this aspect of CogSci peplays out. First of all, it does not help that the book is essentially a magazine or blog article writ (relatively) large (see below). But if the book delivered, as the subtitle suggested, a detailed account of the evolution of the various features and phenomena it brings up, that would be one thing. Instead it essentially provides a different way of THINKING about the experimental results it brings up.There are actually two overarching lessons taught throughout the book: 1) it can be more useful to think of various aspects of the mind NOT as the ideal, "fittest" solutions that Nature could possibly have produced, but instead as rough-and-ready, thrown-together solutions that worked well enough at the time; 2) our minds at the macro-level consist of a slow, deliberative, newer system that is rational, and a fast, reactive, older system that runs instictively. Notably, the latter MAY be explained by the former; but that is an example of one of the hypothetical ideas in "Kluge" rather than something that is PROVEN in the book.The book will be mostly interesting reading for those who like to read about psychology experiments. Not all of it will be new to such readers, though, as the Tversky-Kahneman-type rationality issues probably are not. Not of all of it is well-presented either--the chapter on language, for example, is a mess that seems to work particularly poorly at advancing the overall theses. Marcus weighs in at every turn to tie in the big lessons; sometimes his interpretations are compelling, while other times they smack of shoe-horning. As suggested above, though, the book is perhaps best approached as light synoptic reading, and there is enough diversion in that sense for most people interested in this line of inquiry.
Yes, his ideas are interesting, but not convincing. I have written three blog posts about this book's claims on my blog "smarthotoldlady" on the "blogspot" domain